Foreign Bank Deposits in Qatar Fall Most Since 2015 on Spat

  • Non-resident funds decline even after interest rates increase
  • Overall deposits rise as sovereign fund said to inject cash

Al Rayan Says Worst Behind for Qatar Foreign Investors

Foreign deposits at Qatar’s banks fell the most in almost two years last month as customers withdrew funds following a diplomatic row with four Arab nations led by Saudi Arabia.

Non-resident deposits with the 18 lenders in the world’s biggest liquefied natural gas exporting nation dropped 7.6 percent to 170.6 billion riyals ($47 billion) in June from a month earlier, according to data posted on the Qatar Central Bank’s website on Wednesday. The decline is the biggest since November 2015, the data show. Overall deposits climbed 1.1 percent in June helped by a jump in domestic funds.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut ties with Qatar on June 5, accusing it of supporting extremist groups. Qatar denies the charge and says the move was an attempt by Saudi Arabia to impose its will on smaller nations in the Gulf. Qatar Investment Authority, the country’s sovereign wealth fund, has placed billions of dollars in deposits in local banks since then to shore up liquidity and soften the blow, people familiar with the development said last month.

"Qatar’s domestic liquidity was expected to come under pressure due to the diplomatic rift, given that Qatar banks have grown more reliant on external funding in light of lower energy prices," Carla Slim, an economist for the Middle East and North Africa at Standard Chartered Plc, said in an email.

Higher Rates

The slide in non-resident holdings, which account for 22 percent of overall deposits, comes even after local lenders raised interest rates to try and attract foreigners. The Qatar three-month interbank offered rate, a benchmark used to price some loans, climbed to 2.52 percent on July 17, the highest since at least September 2010, when Bloomberg began collecting the data.

Overall bank credit within Qatar fell 0.6 percent in June to 780 billion riyals, according to the data. Qatar has a $200 billion spending plan in preparation for the 2022 soccer World Cup.

Efforts to resolve the standoff between Qatar and the Saudi-led alliance reached an impasse, a Gulf official with direct knowledge of the matter said on Wednesday, amid signs the bloc wants to extract more concessions from Doha. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt have yet to respond to proposals by the U.S. and the U.K. that aimed to start direct negotiations, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

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